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“Respite centers”, according to the official terminology “Centers for Reception and Orientation” (CAO) have been very heterogeneous since their creation, in October 2015, heritage of their orientation as temporary departure for the only winter period, in the improvisation they have been set up in. An “operating charter” was expected in order to define precisely the objectives of the system and the way centers work. It appeared.

The paper starts with a long screed in which the administration is congratulating itself. A series of recommendations about some malfunctions follows. In an emergency we opened centers a little bit everywhere, especially in very isolated places. And on place we told to make the number, to put as many people in the bus as possible, including minors that the centers are not entitled to receive. The centers do not know how many people will come or what their status is, and sometimes not when. And when it was about camps evictions things have been even more improvised. The “operating charter” advocates the disappearance of all these small inconveniences, “as much as possible”.

The Charter provides that the departure of migrants from CAO should be voluntary and “following a comprehensive information”, “Orientation CAO is done with the consent of the migrants involved, after complete informations about their CAO being given (geographical location, accessibility in terms of transport, type of accommodation) and prospectives for the future after their staying in CAO. ”

In reality there are currently two cases. First possibility is the evictions of camps, where police puts everyone in the bus and where those who refuse may be threatened to be sent to retention, as it happened in Steenvoorde recently (see here and here). We can hardly speak of voluntary choice, and the “full information” may be significantly shortened.

The other case is that of making people decide to go to CAO, such as we find in the Calais and Grande-Synthe camp. In fact, information there is given in a such way to convince migrants to leave, telling them everything will be better in CAO there and there will be no problems.

Among the problems, the risk of being deported to another country, usually the one in which fingerprints were taken making it the country responsible for the asylum application -accordind to the EU Dublin Regulation III. The Charter reaffirms in an euphemistic way that “Following this review, a solution to regularize, if appropriate, of reinstatement, transfer or return will be proposed to these foreigners, given their administrative status and their migratory story.” The only cases of regulation stated is the “victims of human trafficking and pimping filing a complaint or testifying against the perpetrators” which is nothing, and a restrictive application of the legislation. “Readmission” and “transfer” means expulsion referral to another European country under the Dublin Regulation III or the Schengen rules. “Return” means returning to the country of origin, “voluntary” or forced.

Now, the people who are giving informations in Calais and Grande-Synthe are telling migrants that there is no risk of being sent back. And during the meeting of the national commission on CAO system, held last 26 July, the Minister of Housing assured that the Interior Minister had given to Prefectures the instruction to not send people back. But why write so they will not do so?

In reality, some Prefects send people back and some don’t. The official answer is that some prefects are recalcitrant and that the Interior Minister fails to make them listen to him. And it asked associations to trace all cases of risk of expulsion and inform the sub-prefect of Calais, who will contact the prefects concerned to avoid it. It takes some associations for mutts, nonetheless.

Apart from these problematic points, also in the Charter there are accurate data. They concern the budget and staff of the centers. Budget: the charter confirms the statement of 29 June, 25 € per day per person all inclusive, centers that spend more -normally to give a better service- will either close or reduce costs.

But the charter also innovates: there may be CAO at 15 € per day, with only the night and breakfast “included”. As in some emergency camps, people “welcomed” CAO can be put on the street in the morning, manage to eat at a charity restaurant or elsewhere, and come back in the evening to sleep.

About saff, are planned a night watchman for 50 people and a person responsible for social support to 30 people. No translator previded, being these people non-French speakers. No translators to work with non-French speakers.

As stated in the Charter, the associations are expected to voluntary and happily fill the state deficiencies.

You can download the CAO operating charter here.



Ulysses and the Sirens, wall painting from Pompeii.